§ A local authority (within the meaning of section eighty-one of the Road Traffic Act, 1960), the council of a metropolitan borough and the London County Council shall have power, and (notwithstanding anything in that section as originally enacted or in the corresponding provision of the enactments repealed by that Act) shall be deemed always to have had power, to enter into arrangements with any person under which, in consideration of the payment by him to the authority or council of a lump sum, or series of lump sums, he is 1507 authorised to collect and retain the charges made in respect of the parking of vehicles in an off-street parking place provided by the authority or council under that section or under that section as applied by virtue of section eighty-two of that Act or under the corresponding provisions of the enactments repealed by that Act.—[Mr. Marples.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. Marples
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
I will explain the purpose of the Clause quite simply, and any technical questions that I find I cannot answer I shall leave to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to answer later. The purpose is quite simple. It is to allow a local authority which has provided off-street car parking to make a contract with, say, the British Legion, by which the British Legion collects the fees and pays a lump sum to the local authority.
Again, this is something that has been requested by the Association of Municipal Corporations. As I say, it provides that a local authority—that is, a county borough or county district—which has provided an off-street parking place and has, by order, imposed charges for the use of that parking place may—not shall, but may—enter into arrangements with some other person or body whereby the other person or body collects the charges and, in return, makes a lump sum payment to the local authority. The local authority pointed out that some doubt had been expressed whether, as the law now stands, a local authority could legally enter into such arrangements. Local authorities already make many arrangements of that sort, but as the law is in doubt it is as well to make it abundantly clear. I see no reason why a local authority should not let it to a first-class body if it so wishes.
This enlarges the area of authority to local authorities. We are giving them a lot of power under the Bill. I am sure that the Opposition will be grateful for the extension of these facilities to local authorities. I hope that the proposed new Clause will be accepted.
§ Dr. Stross
I assume that local authorities may enter into a contract for this purpose, not only with the British Legion, but with any person or body they may like?
§ Mr. Benn
Naturally we welcome any extension of the power of local authorities which will enable them to conduct their affairs more efficiently. The only anxiety that I have is whether, in a contract of this kind, a situation might develop under which a local authority received a lump sum payment for making the parking place available and in return handed over a parking place which was far more valuable than was first thought likely. There may be a danger that the British Legion or a private firm may get hold of an immensely profitable site and make a lump payment for it, and then the local authority may be denied what would be its fair return for the land because it had not anticipated the value of it when it let it to the body that sub-contracts the work of building the parking place.
§ Mr. Marples
I take the point of the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). It may be possible that a long-term contract will be made which turns out to be profitable to the British Legion or to any other body. But the reverse may be the case. A loss may be made. It is up to the local authority to be shrewd enough to arrange the terms accordingly. The local authority could make a short-term contract with a series of lump sum payments to be received. It may make an arrangement with the British Legion and say. "You can have this for six months at so much. You pay us what you get for it or X percentage of what you collect. At the end of six months we will revise it and give you first option of taking it on again." It is up to the shrewdness of local authorities to use these flexible powers in a way which will not harm the interests of the ratepayers.
§ Mr. Marples
I should have asked for the leave of the House to speak again. I apologise, Mr. Speaker, for not having done so.
§ Mr. Speaker
The House appeared to have granted leave. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman required it strictly.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.